By Mirza Mosaraf Hossain
Murshidabad: Farhana Firdous used to set out from her home at 3.a.m when her neighbors were fast asleep. She then cycled to Sekhpara, the nearest bus stop 2 km away. The 25-year-old then took a bus to Baharampur, to board a train to travel 200 to reach her university.
“Many times I missed the first class because of the non-availability of buses at Sekhpara,” says Firdous, a resident of Katlamari, a village under Raninagar police station in the Murshidabad district of West Bengal state.
For tuition, she had to travel 60 km to Baharampur.
Firdous forgot all the hardships in September 2017 when she secured three medals for her Master’s degree in Physiology from the University of Kalyani in West Bengal state, at its 28th convocation.
The story of Firdous, who lives just 2 km from the Bangladesh border, is a testimony that more positive things are happening on the India-Bangladesh border than illegal immigration, smuggling and other illegal activities that the mainstream media reports.
The young woman is a living example of the struggles of the people living in these areas. Hers is a testimony of how adversity can spark the birth of an incredible talent.
Despite many hardships and the daily struggles of being a Muslim woman who wants to study, Firdous scored 86.8 percent for her MSC that helped her bag three medals from three different fields.
She was rewarded with silver ‘Professor A.G Datta Endowment Medal’ for standing First Class First for her M Sc degree, gold for ‘Mitali Memorial Medal’ for obtaining highest marks among the recipients of the same degree under the Faculty of Science and bronze ‘Satish and Tulsi Manna Memorial Endowment Medal’ for standing first among all the successful candidates at the Post Graduate Examination under the Faculty of Science.
In 2014, she bagged the fifth position among the undergraduate students of 49 colleges under Kalyani University scoring 67.8 percent marks. She got 82.4 percent in matriculation and 72 percent in twelfth grade in Science stream.
Firdous shared with TwoCircles.Net her experiences. She says here arduous travels to the university were nothing compared to the rebukes and rebuffs of her neighbors, who resented a Muslim woman defying traditions and conventions to set out of the house. But that did not dissuade her from pursuing her dreams.
Firdous credits her family with her success. They have always supported her to fulfill her dreams. “While my family supported me in the possible way, many rebukes and rebuffs my family and I had to listen from my localities for my womanhood. Marriage and social settlement were their prime concern that they wanted to impose upon my family and to me, but that was never a matter to introspect to my family until my success.”
Her mother, Nazmun Nesa Begum, a housewife, concurs: “I wish she secures a good career after such a toilsome journey through both social taboos and academic hardships.”
While Firdous says that many people have inspired her, the biggest source was her late grandmother Nur Nahar Begum. Firdous’ father, Firoz Shahjahan, a contractual school teacher under Matriculation Seva Kendra Scheme, says, “My mother was her sole strength to reach up to this position. She was the first to come forward to get Firdous admitted to the Kalyani University. Thanks to her blessings, she became the first woman in our family to earn a Master’s degree in Science.”
Among other names who inspired Firdous were her professors- Dr Gautam Paul, Dr Subhasish Sahu, and Dr LakshmiKumari Lahiri. She says Dr Paul’s inspiration resulted in her success.
Dr Paul, who is the former Head of the Department of Physiology, says, “She is a very intelligent and diligent girl. She illuminated us coming from one of the most socio-economically minority populated districts of India. I wish she keeps this trend of illuminating success up in her future and let us feel pride for her.”
For the time being, Farhana is preparing for NET exam and wishes to pursue her research on Human Physiology in her PhD degree.
She now aspires to run a Career Counseling program in her locality.
“I was not aware of different streams as a part of curricula and hence different lines for job markets until my coming into the university. I believe that if students have knowledge on many things, they can easily choose from their preference of career. However, school students of my locality lack that knowledge. So, I have a dream to organize frequent career counseling for all of them so that they can way out their career.”
No matter what path she takes, it is clear that Firdous will continue to prove her doubters wrong.